Welcome to Hanoi, one of the most amazing and vibrant cities in all of Southeast Asia! If you’re looking for things to do in this bustling metropolis, my 1-day Hanoi itinerary will show you the best of what this city has to offer.
There’s no doubt that Hanoi is a city that is constantly alive with motion and energy. With its chaotic streets, vibrant nightlife, and delicious food, it’s no wonder why so many people are drawn to this fascinating destination.
Most people stop by Hanoi for a day before continuing on to Sapa or Halong Bay. I flew into Hanoi and spent a day there at the beginning of my 10 day Vietnam Trip.
If you’re only in town for a day, it can be tough to know how to spend your time. Which is why I’ve put together a suggested itinerary that will make the most of your time and show you some of the best sights and sounds Hanoi has to offer.
Before we get going with your epic one day guide, there’s a few things you should know. If you want to skip this part and get straight to your 1-day Hanoi itinerary, click here.
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- Where is Hanoi and how to get there
- Best time to visit Hanoi
- What to pack for Hanoi
- Where to stay in Hanoi
- The important stuff
- Is one day enough to visit Hanoi
- 1-day Hanoi Itinerary
- Hanoi Itinerary Stop 1: Breakfast
- Hanoi Itinerary Stop 2: Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple
- Hanoi Itinerary Stop 3: Hanoi Train Street
- Hanoi Itinerary Stop 4: One Pillar Pagoda
- Hanoi Itinerary Stop 5: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- Hanoi Itinerary Stop 6: Tran Quoc Pagoda
- Hanoi Itinerary Stop 7: Hanoi Old Quarter
- Hanoi Itinerary Stop 8: Dong Xuan Market
- Hanoi Itinerary Stop 9: Water Puppet Theatre Show
- Day trips from Hanoi
Where is Hanoi and how to get there
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and is located in the north of the country. It’s easily accessible from most major international and Vietnamese cities.
Noi Bai International Airport is just 45km from the centre of Hanoi and is the main airport serving Hanoi and northern Vietnam. There are regular flights to Noi Bai from most major international cities including London, Dubai, Paris, Amsterdam, Doha and more.
I flew from Dubai to Vietnam and then to Ireland via Doha and managed to get a great deal using Skyscanner.
If you’re coming from within Vietnam, there are plenty of domestic flights that will get you to Hanoi as well.
I highly recommend pre-arranging your airport transfer with your hotel as taxi drivers can be a little cheeky and try to rip off tourists. If you do decide to take a taxi, agree the fare before you get in and be firm.
The railway is a great way to travel between Hanoi and other major cities in Vietnam. The journey from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) takes around 33 hours and from DaNang is around 15 hours. There are several train companies that offer this service and you can buy your tickets online or at the train station on arrival.
If you’re looking for an interesting way to travel between Hanoi and other cities, I suggest taking the overnight sleeper train. It’s a great way to save on accommodation and see some of the beautiful countryside Vietnam has to offer.
There’s also a train that runs internationally from China! Just be sure to have your visas pre-arranged before getting on these trains.
Buses are a popular way to travel between Hanoi and other major cities in Vietnam but, while it’s a cheaper option than flying or by train, it does use up a lot of your time. So if you’re not in Vietnam for a long time, I wouldn’t recommend taking the bus.
If you’re touring around on a budget and have time to spare, however, it might be the best option for you. You can catch a sleeper bus from various cities within Vietnam to Hanoi. From HCMC, the ride takes around 1.5 days and from Hoi An around 18 hours.
Did you know, there are over 5 million motorbikes in Hanoi alone?!
One of the best ways to see Vietnam is by motorbike. This mode of transport has been made very popular recently, with many people riding their bikes around the country and documenting it on social media.
If you’re going to hire a bike, be sure that you have your international drivers licence as they won’t rent one out to you without it. Also be sure that you’re comfortable riding a motorbike in busy Asian cities! It can be really cutthroat!
Best time to visit Hanoi
The best time to visit Hanoi is from February to April and from October to November when the weather is cooler and you’re less likely to experience rainfall. This is also peak season though, so you’ll have to be prepared to pay a little more for accommodation.
However, if you’re looking for cheaper prices and don’t mind the heat, then visiting between May and October would be a good option. Just be prepared for some pretty intense humidity and some crazy showers!
What to pack for Hanoi
The one thing I brought to Hanoi which was an absolute lifesaver, was an electric fan. It’s humid at times. Really humid! So be sure to pack one of these if you’re travelling during the hotter months.
Other than that, pack light and comfortable clothes that you can easily layer on and off. A raincoat, even during the dry season will be useful as heavy showers can still surprise you. They usually last only a very short time but if you get caught in them, you’ll be drowned!
Hanoi is really easy to get around on foot so you’ll want to make sure you have comfortable shoes for exploring. I absolutely love my Crocs as they’re breathable (did I mention it gets really humid?!) and super comfortable for walking. I’ve had the for 6 years and they’re still going strong – oh and they’re not the type of Crocs shoes you’re probably thinking of!
Where to stay in Hanoi
There are plenty of accommodation options in Hanoi, from backpacker hostels to high-end hotels. If you’re looking for somewhere central and affordable, I would recommend staying in the Old Quarter. This is where most of the action happens and it’s easy to walk around to all the main tourist attractions.
For a bit of luxury: If money is no object and you’re after some high-end pampering, then the Sofitel Legend Metropole is a great option. It’s centrally located right in the heart of the Old Quarter and oozes French colonial charm. There’s a heated swimming pool, a luxurious spa and each room is elegantly decorated in a classic style.
Middle of the road: I cannot recommend O’Gallery Premier Hotel & Spa enough. It was quite a treat to stay here. The rooms are elegant, the staff attentive and the welcome drink at check in was so refreshing! Although I only stayed for one night, the hotel offered me a room at no extra cost on my way back from Halong Bay to take a shower and freshen up before I left for my flight to Hoi An.
To save the pennies: Aura Home 16Typh is a homestay right in the heart of Hanoi Old Quarter. The accommodation comes with a shared lounge and shared kitchen, as well as air conditioned rooms with a balcony. It’s perfect for saving your money while still being in the centre of it all for exploring.
The important stuff
- The language spoken in Hanoi is Vietnamese, however a lot of people (especially in the tourist areas) will also know some basic English. If you’re feeling brave, why not try learning a few words and phrases in Vietnamese before your trip? It’s definitely an interesting language to learn!
- The Vietnamese dong is the currency and you’ll feel like a millionaire when you get cash out, with 10 USD converting to almost 230,000 dong.
- You’ll need a plug type F for Hanoi, which is used in most European countries. Type C and E will also fit into a type F socket. I highly recommend investing in a universal travel adaptor as it will do you for all your travels going forward too.
- You may need a prior Visa to enter Vietnam, depending on your nationality. IVisa can help you obtain this, or you might be able to get a visa on arrival. I always recommending getting one in advance if you can to avoid the queues trying to get one on arrival.
- As mentioned earlier, there are over 5 million motorbikes in Hanoi. And they all drive crazy!! They also carry everything on the back of their motorbikes – 5 kids, 2 chickens, a TV and a kitchen chair! Be on the lookout when crossing the road, even when you’re in a pedestrian area as they can come out of nowhere. I met a woman who had been hit by a motorbike and ended up in a cast and crutches for the rest of her trip!
- On the subject of accidents happening, I recommend having travel insurance before travelling anywhere. You never know when you could end up in a hospital and it’s a lot more scarier when you don’t have travel insurance. You can grab a free World Nomads quote here.
- When visiting temples, be sure to dress appropriately as they are places of worship. Covering shoulders and knees is the usual dress code.
Is one day enough to visit Hanoi
It’s always going to be difficult to see an entire city in just one day, but it’s absolutely possible to see the very best of Hanoi in just 24 hours. Of course, if you’ve got longer, I’d recommending spending a few more days there, or even using it as a base for some great day trips.
So without further ado, let’s dive into our 1-day Hanoi itinerary!
1-day Hanoi Itinerary
Hanoi Itinerary Stop 1: Breakfast
Where should we start? How about with some breakfast? A typical Vietnamese breakfast consists of pho (a broth and noodle dish), banh mi (Vietnamese bread), and cafe sua da (Vietnamese coffee).
There are plenty of places to try this in the Old Quarter, but my favourite spot is Cafe Pho Co. It’s a small restaurant, hidden behind a clothing shop, and the staff are so friendly and welcoming. The pho is delicious and it’s a great way to start your day!
Hanoi Itinerary Stop 2: Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple
After breakfast, it’s time to explore the city. A great place to start is at Hoan Kiem Lake. This is in the heart of Hanoi (just south of the Old Quarter) and it’s a popular spot for locals and tourists who like to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy Hanoi streets.
In the mornings, you’ll find the locals exercising around the lake. They do a variety of exercises, from calisthenics and tai chi to dance and laughing yoga, and it’s a really beautiful sight to see.
Sitting in the centre of Hoan Kiem Lake is Ngoc Son Temple, a beautiful pagoda sitting on a small island called Jade Island. You can reach the temple by strolling over Huc Bridge, a quaint Vietnamese style wooden bridge.
This is the perfect place to visit to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the lake, whilst taking in the beautiful views of Ngoc Son Temple.
Hanoi Itinerary Stop 3: Hanoi Train Street
After our peaceful moment at Hoan Kiem Lake, it’s time to explore more of the city and head to Hanoi Train Street!
Hanoi Train Street is one of the most unique streets in Vietnam and one of the most Instagram famous places in Hanoi.
It’s a typical Vietnamese street with cafés and restaurants along the sides of the road, but what makes this street so unique is that every so often a train passes right through! It only takes a couple of minutes for the train to pass through, but it is a very unique sight to see!
When the train is coming, business owners have to grab tables and chairs, residents rush to take in laundry and their children – everyone has to get out of the way and try not to get too close as you can imagine how dangerous this would be. I even saw one woman trying to take a selfie with the train behind her – don’t be that person…
Towards the end of 2019, Train Street ‘closed down’ due to an almost accident when a train had to make an emergency stop after a tourist got in the way. For a time, tourists couldn’t walk the track or visit any of the cafés, however in recent times it seems that if you have a guide or are invited by a local business owner, you can still visit Train Street. Just be careful and don’t be the reason it closes down again!
Read also: Train Street Hanoi: Closed Down
Hanoi Itinerary Stop 4: One Pillar Pagoda
Next stop is a quick stop at the beautiful One Pillar Pagoda. Although small, this was one of my favourite places in Hanoi – it’s a Buddhist temple built in the 11th century and is dedicated to Quan Am (the Goddess of Mercy).
It gets its name as it stands on one pillar in the middle of a lotus pond. It’s said to represent a lotus flower rising from the water. It’s such an interesting place to visit, especially as it is the only temple in all of Vietnam to house a female Buddha statue!
Hanoi Itinerary Stop 5: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Close by to One Pillar Pagoda is Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s most popular leader.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a large building in the centre of Ba Dinh Square and it’s one of Hanoi’s most visited tourist sites. Ho Chi Minh (or Uncle Ho as he was more commonly known as) rests inside the Mausoleum where you can see him in his glass coffin.
Each year, Ho Chi Minh’s remains are sent away for restoration and the Mausoleum is closed during that time. Be sure to check with your hotel whether it’s open during your visit to avoid disappointment.
Hanoi Itinerary Stop 6: Tran Quoc Pagoda
Next up is Tran Quoc Pagoda, set on an island on the West Lake. Strangely, the pagoda didn’t used to live on West Lake. Up until 1615 it was situated on the banks of the Red River but had to be relocated due to river erosion.
Built in the 6th century, Tran Quoc Pagoda is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Hanoi. While it’s not the biggest, it’s still a beautiful place to visit with ornate architecture and peaceful surroundings.
The pagoda itself is made up of 11 levels and the surrounding buildings consist of a museum and an incense burning house. During festivals, Tran Quoc Pagoda gets incredibly busy with worshipers and tourists alike.
Hanoi Itinerary Stop 7: Hanoi Old Quarter
Let’s head back to Hanoi Old Quarter and explore more of the 36 streets that make up this vibrant area. Each street is named after the type of goods that were sold there in ancient times so you can wander down and explore at your leisure.
Some of my favourites included Hang Quat (street of fans), Hang Luoc (street of combs) and Hang Thiec (street of tins). You’ll be able to find some really cool souvenirs here from clothes and accessories, to artwork and jewellery in the Old Quarter, as well as interesting attractions.
St. Joseph’s Cathedral: St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a beautiful Roman Catholic church that stands in the centre of Hanoi Old Quarter. Inspired by Notre Damn in Paris, the cathedral is a stunning example of French colonial architecture and the interior is just as beautiful with its stained glass windows, marble pillars and high ceilings. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Bach Ma Temple: Bach Ma Temple is dedicated to the horse that guided Emperor Ly Thai To in constructing the temple. The temple is built on the site where the horse guided him to and, as a result, it’s considered one of the most important temples in Vietnam. Inside the temple you’ll find a statue of a white horse and locals praying.
Stop for Egg Coffee: If you’re looking for a great place to stop for some refreshments, head over to Giang Cafe and try their famous egg coffee – which is exactly what it sounds like! Egg coffee is pretty much just coffee, sugar, milk and egg yolks all mixed together – ok so it’s an acquired taste! You’ll find many other cafes offering the same drink since its popularity but this was supposedly where it all started.
Ma May Ancient House: Ma May Ancient House is one of 14 ancient houses in Hanoi’s Old Quarter built in the late 19th century. It’s a great place to go and see how the people of olden Hanoi used to live as it still has its original features.
Hanoi Itinerary Stop 8: Dong Xuan Market
Time to get some souvenirs and try some famous Hanoi Street Food, as I’m sure you’re feeling al little peckish after the long day of sightseeing! Look out for some Bun Cha, a traditional Vietnamese pork dish, or Banh Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich made with baguette, pate, ham, cheese, pickled vegetables and mayo. Both dishes are delicious and will definitely fill you up!
Dong Xuan Market is the biggest market in Hanoi and it’s definitely worth a visit. You’ll be able to find everything here from souvenirs, to food, to clothes and accessories. It can be a bit overwhelming but it’s a great place to wander around and see what you can find.
If you’re in Hanoi on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, Dong Xuan Market is also home to a night market that takes place every weekend! It lasts from around 19:00 until 23:00 and provides lots of fun activities as well as great food.
Hanoi Itinerary Stop 9: Water Puppet Theatre Show
Last stop on our 1-day Hanoi itinerary is to watch the water puppet show. Now, if you’ve never seen one of these before, you’re in for a real treat! The water puppet theatre is hard to describe but I’ll give it go!
The traditional puppet show takes place on a stage that is made up of water. The puppeteers, who use wooden sticks to control the puppets underneath the water, are hidden behind this stage and perform various folk stories and tales.
It’s not just a visual delight but also an aural one too, as the puppeteers use traditional Vietnamese instruments to accompany the show. The theatre is usually pretty busy so it’s best to book your tickets in advance.
Day trips from Hanoi
If you have more time in Hanoi, there are plenty of amazing day trips to take. You can visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay or go outside of the city and explore Mua Cave. Here are some of my favourite day trips from Hanoi if you have a few more days to spare:
So there you have it – a complete guide on how to spend an epic one day in Hanoi! Whether you’re a first timer or been before, I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy on this jam-packed 1-day Hanoi itinerary. Happy travelling!
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